Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus

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How many times have you read To Kill A Mockingbird? At least once, right? It’s amazing to consider how one book continues to touch so many lives. What does it take to write the great American novel? In Alabama Spitfire, readers get an idea of what makes an author noteworthy. Young Nelle Harper Lee was a reader, a writer and an observer. She watched her father, a lawyer, fight cases in the courthouse. She wondered about her reclusive neighbors and wrote stories about them. These childhood experiences prepared Lee to write a book we all know and love. Children will appreciate the illustrations that have a cinematic feel to them. The interesting storyline will compel readers to make observations and write. Who knows, maybe one day they will write the next great American novel!

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Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework For Learners: Curate/Think IV.A.2 Learners act on an information need by identifying possible sources of information.

  • Introduce Alabama Spitfire by asking the following questions: 
    • What is your favorite book? Do other people love the book as much as you do? How do you know? What do you know about the author of your favorite book?
  • Explain that you are going to read a picture book about a noteworthy author. Point to her name in the title. Tell learners that Harper Lee wrote a book that’s pretty famous. Read the subtitle and state the name of the notorious book.
  • Tell students that while you read, they have a job to do. They need to consider what made Lee such a great writer.
  • Write “Nelle Harper Lee” on a piece of chart paper after reading. Ask learners what Harper did to become such a great writer. Record responses on the chart paper.
  • Ask students if they would like to learn about other authors.
  • Model how to search for biographies about a favorite author using the online catalog. Look at the results of the search together and ask what they notice. Identify the books to read. Point out call numbers and the titles. Model how to check if books are available. Tell learners they will need to record the title and the call number so you can help them find the book in the library.
  • Locate the books and give learners time to read.
  • Divide students into groups and invite everyone to share what they learned. Learners will consider any similarities between the authors. Next, they will write the author’s name on a sticky note and include what made them a writer. Post all sticky notes on a poster with the title “What Makes a Great Writer?” Invite learners to organize the sticky notes in a fashion that makes sense to them.

Cover of Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades by Maureen Schlosser and Rebecca Granatini.
If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included.

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